This week I have been thinking about digital portfolios for our fourth grade students. I have been tasked with investigating their use in other schools: looking into what is included in them, how they are managed, and the digital platforms they are hosted on.
Old Things in Old Ways
I started by looking into what we already have in play: Edublogs. Each student at our school has one by default so this seemed like a good place to start. I sat down and started tinkering around, creating pages in a similar vein to the subject dividers in our tactile portfolios. The idea would be to separate the process from the product. Even as I did this, it didn’t sit well with me as I have long been a proponent of process over product. It felt like duplication of an idea that I already wasn’t a huge fan of.
Old Things in New Ways
So I met with another Learning Technology Teacher at our school and we discussed the idea of no static pages and instead all content within the blog posts, using categories to tag the work so they they can be sorted by the reader.
We talked about letting the students decide if they wanted some static pages for things that were important to them – links to websites, subscriptions – and giving the students autonomy over how their blog looked.
We liked the idea of process and product being mixed in together with the option of filtering one from the other. We also talked about the option for students to password protect their reflections, goals, or particularly personal posts that they only wanted to share with a smaller audience.
We would be giving the students the opportunity to move on from sharing only what could previously fit inside an A4 plastic pocket, to sharing their voice, their image, video, scanned work, collaborative pieces, reflections, wonderings, creations and more. Still very similar to what was already in play, but with new possibilities for students to really communicate their thinking and understanding.
The Big Tech Barrier: One to One
We don’t have a 1:1 environment for our fourth graders. Classes of 20 students have 10 MacBooks and 6 iPad minis per class. There is also a cart of 20 MacBooks for the grade level, but as Prensky points out “when used well, computers become extensions of students’ personal self and brains”. If a teacher wanted 1:1 they could make it happen, but not on a device dedicated to that one student.
The Social Barrier: Digital Immigrants
This could be the bigger hurdle. Without going into extensive detail (in line with Kim’s digital footprint blogging guidelines) let me just say that during this entire section, I found myself nodding along. Vigorously. And it made me realize that in my role, I was going to need to work harder at articulating purpose and providing appropriate (differentiated) support to teachers and students along this journey.
I left school for the long weekend and Prensky’s summary quote was on my mind:
New Problems, New Solutions
When I got home my phone beeped and I was notified that someone new was following me on Twitter: @shaza33 I typically like to check out new followers so I clicked on her handle and then her website. Scrolling through, I came to this post about…Digital Portfolios! She had great ideas and some great examples of things included in the portfolio. I wasn’t in love with everything she shared but I was inspired by her work and it assured me that this was going to be possible. I particularly liked the way she linked her purpose back to the Role of ICT in the PYP document and the PYP Making It Happen document.
Then I flicked through my RSS feed of COETAIL blogs and read Kirsty Godbout’s post on Reflections on Why? In her post, she spoke of Simon Sinek and the understanding he shared that we should ‘start with why’ which is typically the opposite of what most people do (instead starting with ‘what’ they are going to do or ‘how’ they are going to do it, but leaving the all important why out of the equation). She reminded me that this was a facet of my equation that I was missing.
Both of these interactions were important and inspiring and reminded me that sometimes the answers or the inspiration we are looking for can come from places that would previously not have existed.
New Things in New Ways
So, what are we waiting for? I think of my own blogging journey that started a couple of years ago and I know so much of what I get from it is the opportunity to reflect on my own learning. This sentiment is echoed by George Courous:
If we do not take time to look back, how will we ever be able to move forward?
I want our kids to have the same opportunity to share their learning journeys in ways that were not previously possible and in ways that really allow their creativity, innovation, thoughtfulness, and insightfulness to flourish.
Our kids deserve no less.
And then, as a nod to messing around, I came across this story of how a three-minute film was watched by over 120 world leaders at the United Nations two weeks ago as part of a campaign on Climate Change. A more important issue at hand than my portfolio dilemma (of course!) but sharing a sentiment that could transcend to our use of technology in education:
We can make today the day we stop thinking that the changes required to get there are impossible and beyond us, and start realizing that they are not only possible, but what the future requires of us.